'Left Alone,' Oliver Mtukudzi Sees Music As Therapy

At 60, Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi now has more albums to his name than birthdays. His latest album, <em>Sarawoga</em>, is an emotional response to the death of his son. Mtukudzi joins guest host Celeste Headlee in studio for a special performance chat.

Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi will be sixty-one his year, and this latest album, Sarawoga, is his sixty-first.

It is also, perhaps, his most personal. Sarawoga means 'left alone.' It's a poignant response to the death of his son Sam in 2010.

He tells guest host Celeste Headlee that Sam was "more a friend than a son." Both musicians, they played, traveled, toured and composed together." The only way to console myself is to carry on doing what we loved doing most," he says. "Sitting down [to] cry and mourn. I think it would have killed me."

Instead, Tuku - as he is known to his fans - has thrown himself into performing his brand of 'Tuku Music' across the world.

Interview Highlights

On dealing with the death of his son Sam

"If I went back on stage and did what we did. It could, at least, make me feel satisfied. I'd get satisfaction out of that, than sitting down and just thinking of him. I was trying to celebrate the 21 years I've had with him."

"I'm not sure people understand what it meant to be able to perform with your own son, doing the same job, doing what you love doing most, both of you. I don't think people will get to understand the depth of the love that's in the art world."

What is 'Tuku Music?'

"According to me, 'Tuku Music' is African music borne of Zimbabwe. That's it. But my fans rather call it 'Tuku Music' because they can't place my music. They hear all these elements in the song, so they thought, 'Tuku Music.'"

On how his music has changed over the decades

"The only difference that has come into my music that I've come to realize is quality. Because the guitars I used then, in the '70s, '80s, and the equipment of recording studios that we used then, there's a great change. And now things can be done much easier."

"I remember we used to perform using a 100 watt amplifier in a stadium. But people were satisfied. It was OK. But you can't do that today. Because the ear of today needs more power."

Have things have changed since he wrote 'Todii' to fight against the stigma of HIV and AIDS?

"I'm glad to say the song has served its purpose. Because the song was designed to, at least trigger discussion among us people, about the disease. It's a song that was full of questions, with no solution at all. And all those questions started making people talk about the disease, and try and take the stigma away from it."

On whether he shied away from talking about Zimbabwe's forthcoming elections

"I don't know what's politics. I didn't shy at all. I don't know what politics is. But I know what music is, and what music does to that next person. I know that music unites people. Music gives hope. And music is a way of life. That I know. But what politics is? I don't know."

"It's a pity that the world outside our borders concentrates on a handful of people who have their own personal interests. Come to Zimbabwe and see, and experience, what really Zimbabwe is."

On his role as a musician

"I'm blessed enough to understand why I do what I do. If you understand your purpose, then it shouldn't be a burden at all. It should be a commitment of what you're supposed to be doing to serve that next heart; to heal that broken heart; which is why God gave you the talent; which is the purpose of giving life to the people."

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